Turkmenistan & Russia continue talks on gas
Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, Oct. 19 / Trend H.Hasanov /
Turkmen President Gurbangulu Berdimuhammedov received head of Russia's Gazprom Company Alexei Miller on Oct.19, the company said.
Judged by the reports that in Ashgabat was discussed "the issue of long-term strategic cooperation in gas sphere", the fundamental question of the resumption of supplies of Turkmen gas to Russia via Central Asia-Center (CAC) pipeline, stopped more than six months ago, will require more time.
The Russian President's Press Service has reported only a "political decision", reached by the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to Turkmenistan in mid-September. The main issue - the price - has not been touched on.
Recently, on the eve of ongoing talks Ashgabat stated that, according to the new conditions, it will oppose to Russia's re-exportation of the Turkmen gas to the world markets.
At this stage the technical issues on the CAC was resolved and the sides have agreed upon "price formula", but did not agree on the specific price of natural gas supplies, either on this pipe, either in the future.
The issue of resuming the Turkmen gas supplies to Russia via the Central Asia-Center (CAC) pipeline, halted more than six months ago, still remains open.
Russia suspended imports in April this year because of the accident on the main CAC. Turkmenistan declared that the explosion occurred for one reason: the Russia company drastically reduced the volume of the Turkmen natural gas without prior notice. Such actions were described by the Turkmen Foreign Ministry as "hasty and irresponsible, because it created a real threat to life and health of people and could cause unpredictable ecological consequences." The Russian company is accused of "unilateral gross violation of contract terms of gas sale." Economists said that Turkmenistan lost up to one billion dollars per month.
Moscow has contracted the Turkmen gas for year ahead, for 25 years - up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas annually, with a request for further increase. The sides agreed to hold talks on prices, separately, in 2009 it was established, as was supposed, yet in 2008. The world recession has made major adjustments, but a sudden accident served as a pretext.
Russia has not accepted any protests, saying that Turkmenistan had been warned in advance, but the decline was forced, as demand for natural gas considerably decreased in the world due to the global crisis. Elementary arithmetic won geopolitics, but the Russian media reports that even such giant company as Gazprom could not afford to buy gas for unreasonably high prices at a loss. Avoiding Ashgabat's request on compensation for technical failure, Moscow raised the issue of reviewing the transaction to cut either the volume of purchases of gas, or its value.
Turkmenistan possesses the world's largest natural gas reserves (ranking fourth, following Russia, Iran and Qatar), and claims the role of one of the key players in the energy field in the Caspian region. By early 2010, Ashgabat will use an alternate pipeline to China (a design capacity of up to 40 billion), additional branches will be launched to Iran (which will give the opportunity to sell up to 20 billion cubic meters). All this, one way or another, marks the end of the era of Gazprom monopolist in Central Asia, maintaining certain leverage to prevent the Central Asia from the expensive European market.
Brussels hopes that the Turkmen gas can partially fill the Nabucco project (more than $30 billion), which should lay the pipeline under the Caspian Sea.
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